School principal suspended over Korea ferry disaster

SEOUL - The principal of the South Korean high school that lost more than 240 students in the Sewol ferry disaster has been suspended, the local education office said Friday.

Choo Kyo-Young "was removed from his post in connection with the ferry disaster," a senior official told AFP.

He declined to elaborate on the precise reasons behind the disciplinary action, which involves a three-month suspension after which the individual is either reinstated or reassigned.

Dawon High School in Ansan city, south of Seoul, has become a poignant symbol of the human tragedy that unfolded when the 6,825-tonne Sewol ferry capsized and sank off South Korea's southern coast on April 16.

Of the 476 people on board the vessel, 325 were Dawon students on a school trip to the southern resort island of Sewol.

More than 240 were killed, along with 10 teachers.

The school's vice-principal, who was rescued from the ferry, committed suicide three days later, hanging himself from a tree near the gymnasium where relatives of the victims had camped out during the rescue operation.

"Surviving alone is too painful... I take full responsibility. I pushed ahead with the school trip," he wrote in a suicide note.

Some parents had initially criticised the school for going ahead with the trip given the poor weather conditions when the ferry set off from the western port of Incheon.

But conditions were fine when the vessel actually capsized and initial investigations suggest structural problems with the ferry and lax safety precautions were responsible for the disaster.